How to Get Dentists to Bite on a Promo

How do you get thousands of dentists to endorse a toothpaste without paying them? Procter & Gamble has found a way.

The consumer products giant is offering refunds to anyone dissatisfied with Crest toothpaste after using it for six months. There's a catch, of course. To get a refund, people must visit their dentist twice--before they start using Crest, then after six months are up. Your dentist records the results on a special form, and sends it off to P&G.;

If your teeth are worse after using Crest, P&G; will refund the cost of six months' worth of toothpaste, about $15. More likely, though, your dentist will tell you the Crest worked fine. Most toothpastes do.

What did this endorsement cost you? With dentists charging upward of $30 for an office visit, at least $60. Unless, of course, you planned two dental visits anyway.

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They can't give it away: How much does a "free" product cost? Depending on where you shop, as much as 39 cents.

The product is Bausch & Lomb Eye Wash, a solution for rinsing specks from your eyes. The company is offering rebates of up to $4 to people who buy a four-ounce bottle. Now, according to an Eye Wash ad, you can wash away specks for free. The problem is, it is not so easy to find a $4 bottle of Eye Wash. We checked around, and found it priced as high as $4.39 at grocery and drug store chains.

When we asked about the price difference, a Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman told us that the company doesn't set the retail price. The offer was based on the average price charged for Eye Wash nationally, $3.95.

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The cupboard looks bare: What's the best lunch meat to serve your children? The Center for Science in the Public Interest says there isn't one.

The Washington-based consumer group recently rated the nutritional content of more than 1,000 processed foods regularly eaten by children. In seven of 19 food categories, including lunch meat, the group found no food worthy of a best rating. Lunch meats contain too much sodium for the center's taste.

The ratings irk the National Food Processors Assn., an industry group. Spokesman Tim Willman said it is misleading to label foods as good or bad. "We believe all foods have a place in a healthy diet," he said.

Though the center argues that it is better to eat fresh foods, it found processed foods it could recommend. Among cereals rated best are Kellogg's Nutri-Grain, Post Grape Nuts and Wheatina. Among frozen entrees, Conagra's Healthy Choice Spaghetti and Healthy Choice Macaroni and Cheese and Tyson Looney Tunes Pasta got a best rating.

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Odds and ends: Good timing: USAir dropped its slogan--"flying should involve as little walking as possible"--just before a mechanics strike forced hundreds of ticket holders to hoof it to other airline counters. . . . A different kind of space program: 20th Century Insurance Co. offers reduced group rate auto insurance to scientists with degrees in astronomy, meteorology, planetary systems and other specialties.

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